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Spring is a très intéressant time of the year. The world begins to thaw as it awakens from its wintry sleep, and the air is filled with the delicate scent of lilac and hyacinth. Trees stir and yawn, and as they extend their stark brown limbs, tiny green badges of life appear. This particular spring, the famous (and brilliant) detective Furcule Purrot was continually drawn to a warm sunny spot on the back of the sofa near the picture window in his purrfectly furnished flat at Cathaven Mansions. Although he enjoys overseeing the Mansion grounds at any time of day, dusk is his favorite time because that is when the criminal element begins to emerge. As the sun begins to fade, Furcule can often be found peering out across the mansion’s grounds observing every whisker that either twitches or stays still for too long. The eccentric Belgian has an active imagination, and he thrives on any form of study that will keep his little grey cells exercised.

On the evening in question, he was intrigued by the antics of a tiny grey mouse that flitted anxiously from the sidewalk to the flowerbed to the driveway, never completely coming to rest. Purrot, having a particular interest in the order Rodentia, leaned forward to study the specimen further and to formulate questions that might result in an interesting hypothesis. Was this wanderer lost? Was its errand as dodgy as its movements? What were its hopes and dreams, its wants and worries, its political affiliations? Why was Monsieur le Souris  not sur la table? But most important, would this particular souris be a suitable déjeuner for a bachelor detective if it were properly cooked and served with a savory sauce? If so, should it be followed by a cup of tisane?

Just as his mind had begun to slip further into gastronomical musings, his attention was drawn to the sight of a predator stalking the preoccupied mouse. Purrot moved so close to the window that the ends of his impressive mustache tickled the glass. At that very moment, the predator pounced and with one deft stroke severed the mouse’s body from its head. The stunned detective recoiled in horror. As many times as he had been called to examine a murder scene, he had never been witness to a victim’s demise, and the sheer gruesomeness of it all proved entirely too much for his little grey cells to process. He bounded off the couch, scampered through the living room, lurched through the door to the hallway, and then bowled his entire body weight against the door, closing it to put another layer betwixt himself and chaos. As much as he hated closed doors, he hated danger even more.

Upon hearing this disturbance, Miss Lemon (who looks suspiciously like the caretaker) rushed into the hallway. The level of noise led her to expect a gang of roving thieves to mow her down. Instead, she found a wide-eyed Purrot, panting and pacing. Speaking in her best matter-of-fact voice, she attempted to calm him down as she opened the hallway door and moved slowly into the living room. Seeing no danger, she called the trembling detective back into the room, and he followed her cautiously.

But just as he crossed the threshold, he spied a grey felt mouse that he had used for previous experiments, and he returned to high alert. The resemblance of this creature to the one he had so recently seen murdered unhinged the poor Belgian a second time. He began poking and batting the felt mouse as though assuring himself that it would not be able to add to the evening’s contretemps.

Miss Lemon allowed him to conclude his experiment with the felt mouse while she repaired to the kitchen to assemble a light meal. Having convinced himself that his home was safe again, he heartily consumed his repas and settled down to rest. His only regret was that he would never know whether the mouse was tasty or not. As an honorable detective, he could not disturb the scene of a crime, nor could he allow Miss Lemon to do so. Quel dommage!

Furcule Purrot

Furcule Purrot au repos

Though Stratford Palace is a mostly serene dwelling (save for vet visits or those hollerdays involving fireworks), it has its own peculiar struggles from time to time. One dare not label them as “life-or-death” because no cats or caretakers are ever harmed in such contretemps. Rather, these struggles are more along the lines of “comfort-or-serious-lack-thereof.” Last night one of those struggles played out between two unlikely combatants: Bear and the caretaker.

Almost every evening, the caretaker stays up long past the hour that Bear would consider a proper bedtime. Truth be told, Bear is amenable to falling asleep at virtually any hour, but there comes a time shortly after dark has fallen that she leaves the caretaker and Buddy to watch the big light-box, and pads down the hallway to the caretaker’s bedroom. Someone, after all, has to be sensible in this household, and that lot falls to Bear more often than the caretaker would like to admit.

Bear in Bed

Bear in Bed

At this point, it is important for our gentle readers to know that Stratford Palace has three bedrooms, as well as multiple cat beds in the living room and dining room, not to mention a blanket-filled box in the hallway. But when darkness falls, Bear deliberately passes up these congenial spots in order to make a cozy nest in the exact center of the caretaker’s bed. Normally, when the caretaker is ready to retire for the evening, she goes to the kitchen and opens a can of gushy fish or fowl, and before the food hits the plate, Bear is underfoot, meowing impatiently. The caretaker then completes her evening ablutions and goes to bed, while Bear assumes her post in the hallway box and waits for the caretaker to fall asleep before sneaking back up onto the bed for the rest of the night.

But last night, there was no waiting. There was no sneaking. There were only the wily machinations of a gifted strategist: Bear. Last night, Bear wolfed down her food and practically ran all the way back to the bed, plopping down smack-dab in the middle of it. Thinking that this was any normal evening, the caretaker completed her ablutions and headed to her room.  But when she arrived, she found an unwelcome surprise. There lay Bear, leaving no room for the caretaker either to the left or the right. To add to the misery, Buddy took that moment to claim a spot at the foot of the bed.

At this point, it is important for our gentle readers to know that all of the beds in Stratford Palace are twin beds or smaller. Despite the presence of royalty in the palace, there is neither queen bed nor king bed. So when a twin bed is already populated by one 12-pound cat and one 14-pound cat, both lying parallel to the sides of the bed, there is not enough square footage left for a small child, much less a large caretaker. Attempts to relocate Bear slightly to the west were met with stubborn resistance. Subsequent attempts to settle down on the east side of Bear without hanging precariously off the side of the bed were also met with failure. With a sigh, the caretaker realized that she had been outfoxed.

If there is, indeed, no rest for the wicked, the only logical conclusion is that Bear is a veritable saint. The caretaker, on the other hand, should probably seek out a confessor as soon as possible.

 

With apologies to William Faulkner,
but only if he first apologizes to the better William.

It has been several months since the caretaker has cataloged events at Stratford Palace. Had there been a proper excuse for this lapse, it would have been inserted here, but there is none, which I suppose in itself is good news. By God’s grace, neither the caretaker nor the cats have endured any illnesses or injuries or calamities that would have prevented blogging. Instead, the caretaker has found many activities to occupy her time, and they have crowded in upon her duty to report on His Majesty and affairs of state. But tonight the caretaker finds herself with a few extra minutes, so she will summarize the events of the last few weeks to elicit a droll smile from both our gentle readers.

Therefore, we commence, but not like Faulkner. We will allow our story to unfold in chronological order because we are not a famous Southern author who learned the hard way that liquor and horseback riding do not mix. But that’s another story….

Part 1: June 13, 2017

Even before this terrible day arrived, the cats were suspicious of the caretaker’s movements. She had spent hours dragging luggage out of closets, rifling through obscure dresser drawers, and arranging small bottles of various liquids into plastic bags. Having seen this sort of behavior before, the cats were increasingly filled with dread. They realized it was only a matter of time before the caretaker disappeared for several days—and nights. But what made this terrible day even worse was the influx of visitors who arrived just before the caretaker’s disappearing act. For two creatures whose third greatest fear is being trodden upon, the cats found that the presence of ten additional lumbering feet in the house was too much to be borne. Mercifully for them, the flurry of activity was soon over, and they were alone.

Utterly, utterly alone.

After several hours of deep silence (and possibly naps), Buddy yawned, looked at his forlorn companion, and said with sad resignation, “Catty, we’re gonna have to fend for ourselves.” As dark descended, so did their spirits. It mattered little that the tall Dan-man arrived every evening to attend to their needs. He was not the caretaker. The caretaker was gone. Utterly, utterly gone.

Until she wasn’t.

Part 2: June 17, 2017

The sun had already shone for many hours, which could only mean that another dark night was closing in like the unruly flaps of an Amazon.com box. When the key turned in the door, the cats barely looked up. It would be the tall Dan-man again to open another can of the wrong food, fill the bowl with inferior water, and stop for a quick head-scratching, and then he’d be gone.

Utterly, utterly gone.

But this time was different. Buddy scarcely believed his golden-green eyes when the door flew open to reveal the caretaker’s tired face. The floodgates were opened and the miaow-ridden complaining began. But it was soon squelched by the feeding and the watering and the scratching and the soothing words and the scooping and the sitting-down-to-make-a-lap.

As soon as the lap was made available, Buddy draped himself over it and commenced a deep purr that lasted longer than seemed possible. His world had been redeemed.

For a few days, anyway.

Part 3: June 26, 2017

As before, this day of parting was preceded by several days of flurrying and scurrying, rumblings and grumblings, and a great deal of document printing, all of which boded ill for the cats. When the suitcase turned up and filled up, Buddy once again looked at his morose companion, this time saying, “Catty, she’ll be gone again soon.”

And she was. A rolling box drove up and carted the caretaker and her luggage far away for many days. A different tall man this time, who brought a bubbly little boy, came to the house daily to brighten the cats’ world, but they were having none of it. They grudgingly drank enough water and ate enough food to stay alive,  but they were too irritated to enjoy themselves.

Then both the best thing and the worst thing happened all at the same time. It was very confusing.

Part 4: July 1, 2017

Although the caretaker had received a cool reception the prior evening, July 1 was her first full day back, and the cats had grudgingly begun to acknowledge her existence. But when the neighbors began their annual completely unnecessary fireworks practice, the cats clung to the caretaker like a couple of wet leaves.

Think of a cat as a creature who has Attachment Disorder alternating with Borderline Personality, and you’ll understand completely what these last few days at Stratford Palace have looked like. Hours of aloof behavior that conveyed the message “I’ve learned to be independent during your long absences,” have been followed by tense moments of terror, as explosion after explosion filled the air outside the palace. Hearing the awful sound and mistaking it for gunfire, Buddy, remembered the Alamo, the storming of the Bastille, the attack on the Tuileries, the falls of Troy and Jericho and the House of Usher, and he imagined himself the target of a monstrous coup. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Bear, having no such illusions, thought only of the naps that were being interrupted. Uneasy lies the head that has to endure the incessant thunder of fireworks.

On July 2, the caretaker awoke to find both cats pressed up against her back, sound asleep, a phenomenon that had not happened in recent memory. (Normally they take turns being near her because they do not like to share her attention.) A relatively quiet morning gave way to a boisterous afternoon of explosions no different from that of the previous day, and the same thing happened on July 3rd and 4th. In fact, on July 4 for some reason the fireworks intensified in number, lasted entirely too long, and brought a great deal of upset and fervor (or fur-vor, if you prefer).

But today, on the fifth day, there is silence. Glorious, glorious silence. At this very moment, Buddy is draped across the caretaker’s lap watching the words of his story magically appear on the screen. He wishes you to know that he bears no ill will toward those who planned the coup, but he hopes they will move along quietly from this time forth, even unto the ending of the world. He is certain that all of his gentle readers regard him kindly and would never commit such crimes against his person.

He does tend to sound pompous from time to time, but that is only to be expected from royalty (and Navy captains). 

 

 

The denizens of Stratford Palace wish a Happy Veterans Day to all who have served in the armed forces of the USA. The cats are not particularly thankful for anything, but the caretaker is grateful for the sacrifices that our veterans and their families have made in the cause of freedom.

That said, the caretaker took the opportunity of having a holiday from work to take the cats to the vet. She decided it would be nice to go a weekday for a change rather than spoil a perfectly good Caturday. Bear went first, and we are sorry to report there are some concerns about her health again. While the blood work is being done, we wait in hope, but it appears at the very least that her diabetes has returned. This type of relapse happens in 25–30% of cases, and while it is disappointing, it will not shake the solid foundations of Stratford Palace. We have survived much worse.

But on a much happier note, Buddy is as fit as a fiddle, if the fiddle is slightly overweight (ahem) and has a clogged tear duct that requires eye drops twice daily. Also if the fiddle is more than a little miffed at having been confined to a crate, transported for several miles, and then poked and prodded by women who were deceptively pretty and soft-spoken.

As maddening as all that may be, Buddy’s actual beef is with the caretaker, who was eminently tricksy for this vet visit. The caretaker has been through fire and death, and as a result, she has very few fears these days, but she still dreads having to put Buddy in the cat carrier, probably because of the history of injuries she has sustained during said process.

This morning after she returned from Bear’s visit, she cleared the bedding out of the carrier and inserted fresh bedding, leaving the carrier open in the dining room floor. While planning how to wrangle Buddy into submission, she did the only sensible thing, which was to make a cup of tea. If she had learned nothing else from binge-watching Downton Abbey, she knew that a nice hot cuppa will solve any problem. Were all of your heirs lost at sea? Let me fix you a strong pot of Earl Grey. Were all of your potential suitors sent to fight the Germans? Then you must, simply must, drink this cup of Oolong. Did you lose the family fortune by investing in a dodgy railroad? Here, have a cup of Darjeeling. Have all your daughters abandoned traditional values? This calls for English Breakfast tea. And scones.

And just like magic, the power of tea saved the day. While the caretaker sipped her Royal English Breakfast tea and contemplated the ways that she might insert one flailing cat into a crate that has an unpredictable door, she heard a slight rattle. She leaned around the corner just in time to see that Buddy had been unable to resist the urge to explore an open box. He had walked all the way in and was busy exploring the nether portions of the crate. All she had to do was reach over and shut the door.

Mischief managed.

The caretaker then carted a very confused, very irritated cat to the vet while he cried and cursed and clattered against the side of the crate. He told everyone in the waiting room what a terrible trick had been played on him, but as he expected, they were merely hoomans who were unable to understand his superior language and therefore could not properly commiserate with him. One lady spoke gently to him and said he had beautiful eyes, so he determined that in the apocalypse he was planning she would be allowed to live and probably to be his new caretaker, depending upon whether she was waiting for a dog to be brought out from the back.

But before he could get the nice lady’s contact information he was whisked to an examining room, humiliated, and then carted back home, where he skulked and sulked for at least an hour. Then his better nature prevailed, and he graciously approached the caretaker and allowed her to stroke his regal head. Since he had found himself back in the place where he had heretofore been treated like the king he is, he decided that the apocalypse would simply have to wait.

At least until after dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

Kale No

We will begin by asking our gentle readers’ forgiveness for the caretaker’s extended absence as an amanuensis. But anyone who has been at all irritated by the lack of communication will have to get in line behind the cats, who have had quite enough of the caretaker’s recent shenanigans, which include inviting extra visitors, including a little boy whose presence requires constant monitoring by the king, and trips to the hopsital (as it is pronounced by the little boy), at one point for days on end.

Then, just as  life at Stratford Palace had finally returned to its normal routine, the caretaker decided that she should pursue something called “gud health.” The cats dared not hope that this goal would include unlimited duck paté or tuna for them, but they were not prepared for the disappointments connected with the caretaker’s quest.

For one, the caretaker spends much less time making a lap for Buddy or Bear and much more time up “doing things,” as though constant activity were a virtue. (The cats shuddered at the very idea, and then they rolled over and went back to sleep.) A few weeks ago, she assembled a large metal contraption and immediately began to spend time almost every day exercising on it. That first night when she was building the machine was pleasant enough for Buddy because boxes were strewn all over the living room floor. But then she committed an unforgivable sin: she discarded all the boxes. As punishment, Buddy will now walk dangerously close to the front of the exercise machine, knowing that she will take pity and stop until he has moved on. This situation is a win-win for him because it will either keep her from taking part in her new pastime or if he should get bumped by the steady motion of the gliders, she will give him sympathy tuna for days.

The only useful part of the exercise machine shipment

The only useful part of the exercise machine shipment: the box

But that has not been the only change around the palace. The caretaker now spends much more time outside, walking up and down the yard pushing an annoyingly loud machine, digging in the dirt, cutting hedges, and generally embarrassing the socks off the cats by letting herself be seen outside in such a state. The glory of being outside is completely wasted unless one is lounging in the sunlight, alternately snoozing and watching the scenery.

The last straw in this journey toward health has been the changes in the caretaker’s diet. The cats have been forced to endure the stench that is raised by cooking such vile foods as cabbage, spinach, Brussels sprouts, and most recently, kale. Buddy used to stand watch over the caretaker’s plate while she ate so that he could scarf up the meat crumbs when she was finished, but he has abandoned that task as being no longer worth his while. Tonight as she was bringing her plate out of the kitchen, a morsel fell to the floor, and before Buddy could catch himself, he had instinctively rushed to pounce on it. Upon finding that it was only a bit of kale, his disappointment was almost palpable. He spat out the offensive greenery and slunk away to brood. That’s when he remembered that all the boxes were gone, and thus there was no available location for a proper brood-fest. And yet, there was no shortage of kale.

And then it seemed to him that there is no justice in the world.

It was bound to happen sooner or later, but this morning at around 10:03, Stratford Palace entered an alternate universe. Until this very day, our Saturdays have included grooming rituals that go something like this:

  1. The caretaker locates the basket of cat grooming equipment and extracts the super duper fur comb-ma-bob-thingy.
  2. The caretaker locates Bear and shows her the fur comb.
  3. Bear, who loves grooming time, proceeds immediately to the ottoman and jumps up on it.
  4. The caretaker sits down by the ottoman and begins combing through Bear’s lovely coat.
  5. Buddy wanders in and finds a strategic spot from which to watch Bear being groomed.
  6. If the caretaker gets anywhere near Buddy with the fur comb, his fight or flight instincts take over and he either bats wildly at the comb or runs away.

But on this memorable morning, exactly nothing past Step 2 happened in the usual fashion. We pick up with the alternate Step 3.

3. Bear, who usually loves grooming time, ignores the caretaker.

4. The caretaker sits down by the ottoman and beckons again, to no avail.

5. Buddy wanders in and hops on the ottoman.

6. The caretaker combs through Buddy’s fur without incident.

We offer this explanation as a sort of public service announcement to our gentle readers who may have felt a slight tremor, or some other disturbance in the force, at the time of our entry into the alternate universe. It is our goal to return to you as soon as possible, but one does not always have control over such things. Our only hope is that this does not signal the end of the world as we know it. Heaven knows, Buddy heralds that event often enough.

 

We at Stratford Palace wish you and yours a blessed and joyful Christmas season. Or as Buddy and Bear would say, “Meowy Christmas!”

All your Christmas are ours

All your Christmas are belong to us